A Closer Look

APA's Div. 29 (Psychotherapy) has kicked off a three-year, member-driven initiative designed to bring together its research and practice members and boost membership among early-career psychologists. The project, spearheaded by current division president Leon VandeCreek, PhD, and immediate past-president Linda Campbell, PhD, began last year with division leadership organizing focus groups for members to weigh in on, "what the division should be doing, what we are about and how members feel," explains VandeCreek.

In the brainstorming sessions, members from the division's three main areas--research, practice and education--considered questions about, for example, how psychotherapy needs fine-tuning and whether researchers are getting funding. Division leaders also held a two-hour brainstorming session with participants at the most recent North American Society for Psychotherapy Research meeting.

They also organized focus group sessions with the society's early-career and student members, which the division is particularly interested in serving and recruiting.

"We are losing people to retirement faster than what we are gaining at the front door, as many divisions are," says VandeCreek. "So we are being challenged to add new faces at the front end."

Through the focus groups, division members identified and began work on their top priorities. They include:

  • Connecting practitioners and researchers. Like many psychology subspecialties, psychotherapy researchers say their findings aren't being used, and practitioners say the research is often not relevant to their everyday practice. To fix that disconnect, a division task force will create a Web site where psychotherapy researchers can highlight their work, and practitioners can read that information and sign up to participate in studies. In addition, the division plans to publish short research summaries written so they "appeal to the applied interests of practitioners," says Campbell.

  • Standardizing training. As it stands, there is "a good deal of ambiguity on the minimal criteria for training in psychotherapy," says VandeCreek. There aren't any criteria on, for example, how long training should last or what it should entail. Instead, "It's all left up to the individual program," he says. The division aims to get involved with the Council of Chairs of Training Councils (CCTC) ongoing work to establish guidelines to improve training in psychotherapy. The division will also survey training directors on what works and what doesn't in psychotherapy education.

  • Tackling student impairment. Early-career psychologists and student members say they want psychotherapy training programs to step up how faculty and supervisors handle impaired students, notes VandeCreek.

"Often training programs look the other way...and [problem] students are passed through," he says. "Students and early-career psychologists are disenchanted by that and feel training programs can do better." To stimulate more discussion on impairment, the division aims to generate articles on the subject, and on the related responsibilities of supervisors, in its journal and other media.

  • Broadening federal grant criteria for psychotherapy research. "Researchers are frustrated because much of the grant money available has very specific criteria that rule out process research on psychotherapy," explains Campbell. To turn this around, the division plans to work with APA on promoting the importance of the psychotherapy process and outcomes research.

  • Educating new professionals on marketing and record-keeping. Early-career psychotherapists felt their graduate education didn't prepare them for the practicalities of opening a practice, such as finding a record-keeping system or marketing their business. A division task force will focus on getting more of this information into the hands of early-career members. In addition, division members plan to collaborate with APA's Committee on Early Career Psychologists.

The division has also established an ad hoc committee focused on its overarching initiative. This way, the work of its task forces will continue as leadership changes hands, notes Campbell. In addition, she says, "It's an ongoing way for members to be involved in the division."

Div. 29 at a glance

APA's Div. 29 (Psychotherapy) is a home for psychologists who promote psychotherapy through practice, research and training. The division was formed in 1968 as "Psychologists Interested in the Advancement of Psychotherapy" and has more than 3,700 members. The division has an active student section with a listserv for networking and discussion. Division members receive two quarterly publications: the journal Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training and the newsletter Psychotherapy Bulletin. To join, visit www.divisionofpsychotherapy.org.